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If you went to the loo and pooed out the same stuff as you see in your baby’s normal nappy, you’d be straight up to the GP! It’s not always easy to tell if a baby has diarrhoea. With adults, it’s straightforward. But babies’ poos can be fairly explosive, runny and any colour from luminous yellow to green on a normal day, especially if they’re breastfed.

With time, most Mums become experts in the subject of nappy contents and know what’s usual for their baby, but even in the early days there are a few ways to tell a normal runny poo from diarrhoea.

You may hear diarrhoea when it arrives with an explosive squelch. Your little one may have been crying or drawing his knees up because of tummy pain. There will be more frequent dirty nappies and they will often smell much, much more than normal poo, it tends to be watery and there may be bits of undigested food.

What’s upsetting their tummy?
There are many causes of diarrhoea. If you’re breastfeeding, something in your diet may have triggered it. The usual suspects are fruits, veggies and spicy foods. So, if you scarfed down a vegetable vindaloo last night, you don’t need to be Hercule Poirot to guess the likely culprit.

If your child is weaned, too much juice or mashed fruit could have caused the problem. More seriously, viruses and bugs can cause gastro-enteritis, which may lead to more severe diarrhoea, often with sickness and a temperature.

What should I do?
Diarrhoea should always be taken seriously, because your baby is losing lots of vital fluids and salts, which could cause dehydration. Keep their fluid intake up, to prevent this. If your baby’s taking breast or formula feeds well, continue them and try sips of cooled boiled water or ‘Dioralyte’ in between feeds. Juices aren’t a good idea because they draw fluid into the bowel and may increase the symptoms.

If your baby’s uncomfortable, offer cuddles and comfort him and a gentle hand on their tummy may ease cramps.

All those poos may make their bottom sore and irritated. Prevent nappy rash, by changing nappies promptly, cleaning gently but thoroughly with water and applying a barrier cream like Sudocrem or Bepanthen.

If your little one is weaned and hungry, then you can continue to feed small amounts of bland starchy foods, like banana, dry toast and potato. These may help settle the stomach and stop hunger pangs.

Get help
Fortunately, runny poos will usually clear up on their own and babies have an amazing capacity to bounce back rapidly from illness. However, rarely it may be more serious and it’s important to see your doctor if:

• Your baby has loose, watery stools for more than 24 hours, or earlier if diarrhoea is frequent.
• You’re worried about dehydration; call your GP immediately if your baby shows signs of this (see the box below for a quick checklist)
• Your child is refusing to eat or drink.
• There’s is blood in the nappy.
• Your little one has been vomiting or the tummy looks swollen.

Is your baby dehydrated?

The signs of dehydration are:

  • Being weak, listless or floppy
  • Having a dry mouth and lips
  • Crying without tears
  • Decreased wet nappies and strong or dark yellow urine
  • Skin is less elastic and doesn’t spring back w hen pinched

If you are worried about your baby, then see your doctor urgently.

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